Winston-Salem residents may be able to save a little hard earned cash on utility bills this winter, courtesy of a new Duke Energy Carolinas program.
The company, which is expected to raise its rates across the state following the North Carolina Utilities Commission’s approval of a proposed rate hike last month, is offering home energy assessments and installation of up to 16 energy-saving improvements to low-income residents through its Residential Neighborhood Program. Roughly 1,200 residents in Blum Park, Kimberly Park and surrounding areas are eligible to participate in the program, which is offered free of charge to qualified participants.
“It’s a new program but we’re really excited about it because we’re getting into the communities and we’re really getting a great response from our customers about the new program,” said Kristina Hill, a communications specialist for the Charlotte-based utility company. “We’re helping the customers who need it the most take control of their energy costs by bringing energy efficiency right to their doorstep.”
More than 1,400 eligible customers across the company’s footprint have taken advantage of the “energy makeovers” through the program since its inception in March, officials said. A dinner meeting held at Kimberley Park Elementary School denoting the event attracted one of the largest turnouts the initiative has seen thus far, reported Program Manager Natasha Davis, who said about 100 people attended.
Asheville native Pamela McIlwain was among the first local residents to take advantage of the offer. McIlwain, who has lived in her home on Cherry Street for 13 years, said she is very pleased with the improvements she received, which included a new shower head, a low-flow faucet aerator, new filters in her HVAC system and energy efficient light bulbs throughout her 1928 home.
“Simply because the house is old, it’s not as well insulated as it should be,” she said. “(The assessment team) just helped me upgrade some stuff where I can keep my energy bill down, because my energy bill runs almost $200 in the winter.”
Although the Residential Neighborhood Program is only available to customers in preselected areas, the company provides a variety of tips and tricks on its Web site to help consumers conserve energy, Hill said.
“This is just one program in a portfolio of programs that we offer,” she stated. “…Even if customers don’t qualify for this particular program, there are lots of things they can do around the home to save money.”
City Council Member Denise “DD” Adams was among those on hand for the Residential Neighborhood meeting. Adams, who represents the North Ward, where some of the eligible households are located, said Duke’s concern for low income customers seemed a little conveniently timed, given the increase in revenue that they are likely to incur from their customers as a result of the hike.
“I understand that they want to do good, but the timing just seemed a little bit off, meaning nobody is going to be happy with what they’re going to do,” she said, referencing the pending rate increases. “I think that they’re trying to get some goodwill out of this, to show people that they’re the good guys.”
Regardless of the company’s motives, the Residential Neighborhood Program is still a worthwhile venture for those who qualify, Adams said.
“I believe in sustainability, I believe in whatever things we can do to make life better, especially with the economic times that we are in,” she said. “…Winter is coming, so we need to go ahead and be proactive in our homes about what we ought to do to prepare for it.”
When it comes to saving on the ever-rising cost of maintaining her comfort levels in her home, McIlwain said she will take any help she can get. She encouraged other eligible residents to do the same.
“They just went up on the bill, so I guess in a way, they’re trying to give back,” she said of Duke Energy. “But anything that helps people improve any part of their life, that’s a blessing, because they don’t have to do it at all.”
For more information about Duke Energy or the Residential Neighborhood Program, visit http://www.duke-energy.com.